I was originally going to write this last night in the middle of my (not very drunken) rage. Then I slept on it. For about six hours. Waking up to find out my job had a liberal leave option today, I took it even though the weather as it turned out was not nearly as bad as we'd expect. However, if you're in the Northeast and reading this, be careful out there. I hear the weather's most unkind.
If there was a course on how to piss off your fanbase, then congratulations to World Wrestling Entertainment. Step up to the stage and collect your second doctorate.
If it sounds like something I wrote one year ago today, it is. Because somehow, WWE again gifted someone an undeserving Royal Rumble win.
If you passed on a meaningless all-star football game that I'm sure had plenty of talk about deflated balls, allow me to beg your indulgence for a moment: Roman Reigns won the annual Royal Rumble match, Brock Lesnar held on to the WWE Championship in what I will admit was a thrilling triple threat match, and Daniel Bryan, WWE's hottest solo act in years and just returning from injury, got all of ten minutes in the Royal Rumble match before he was eliminated by Bray Wyatt. Nope. No win, not even a final four. Just ten minutes (which, admittedly, was more than what half the field got) and an otherwise meaningless elimination.
And people everywhere are pissed, and so am I. This isn't just a typical Bitter Internet Wrestling Community Rant™. Reaction from Philadelphia to Long Island to Twitter was also negative, even bordering on full-on rage. So much so that #CancelWWENetwork was a trend on Twitter. No, scratch that. #CancelWWENetwork was THE #1 TREND ON TWITTER. WORLDWIDE. THE NUMBER 1 TREND. That means it was the most talked about topic on the world's premiere social media platform. And Time Magazine... you know, Time? The guys who do that Person of the Year thing every year? They picked up on the story. TIME... a serious and reputable news publication, picked up on the story.
For WWE, it could not have come at a worse time. Just weeks after the WWE Network was finally made legally available in the UK and Ireland and just weeks before the one-year anniversary of the streaming service, it's underperformed with no signs of improvement on the horizon. Underperforming reports led last year to a sharp dive in their stock and more than a dozen members of the roster let go. When it comes to WWE, at least at this moment as I'm writing this, consumer confidence is low, maybe a low I haven't seen since...last year come to think of it. It's been five straight less than satisfying PPVs (though some will argue Survivor Series was pretty good), and people are tired. Some fans in attendance at Sunday's event decided to express said anger on the talent directly by blocking their path from the building.
For the fourth year in a row, a part-timer will occupy at least one spot in the main event of Wrestlemania, and, oh, by the way, that part-timer is their world heavyweight champion who may be out the door once the referee's mat hits three. The other guy: gifted a main event push through no fault of his own, yet will shoulder much of the blame for the many bumps of the road to Wrestlemania 31 and beyond.
And what of the future? Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, and the like will continue to bump their heads trying to break the glass ceiling and capture that brass ring, yet will constantly be blocked. Why would the rank and file of the WWE bother to work their way up if they're just gonna keep bumping into that six-inch thick glass ceiling with a cement floor on top of it? Why would the average Joe/Jane wrestling fan care if the same people are in the main event over and over? This is what killed WCW. This is what killed TNA for years. There is new blood out there. The next face of the company is right in front of them. Just listen to the consumers. Not just the eight- and nine-year olds; the people that make their decisions with their wallets. The people that are lashing out by deciding not to spend $10 on your streaming service anymore.
But then again, maybe... just maybe... we're all being worked for the purpose of long-term storytelling. There's just one problem: there's no visible sign of hope. The E in WWE stands for "Entertainment". They have to do whatever is possible to keep the masses entertained. That's what the best television shows do. That's what sports leagues do. I'm pretty sure that's what your favorite band does. Entertain the masses, change and evolve, and give them a reason to come back. And strike while the bloody iron's hot or watch them leave. Sure, one will take their place, but eventually, there won't be someone to take the empty spot.
That's what low consumer confidence does. It keeps the consumer away, and last night's Royal Rumble has definitely driven some away.
As for me, I'm holding on to the Network. I do a daily History feature and I like to throw people into that show if they choose to watch. Plus NXT and the documentaries are pretty cool, even if the history is somewhat whitewashed. But I will not dispute your right to cancel said network. If you feel wronged as a consumer, you have to speak with your time and money. If you feel WWE's not worth supporting with your money anymore, that's fine. There are plenty of other wrestling organizations worth your money. Perhaps give them your money.
For what it's worth, maybe this will send a message. (h/t @MattTechnique23)